Torstar plans online gambling portal to help fund future journalism efforts
Torstar Corp. is turning to online gambling as a potential new revenue source that the Canadian newspaper publisher intends to help support future journalistic efforts.
The publisher - which oversees more than 70 newspapers, led by the Toronto Star - said Monday it plans to launch a gambling portal sometime this year after Ontario and federal officials pass legislation that will expand how Canadians can place bets on sports games and gamble online.
Ontario said in November in its annual budget bill that it plans to modernize the online gambling marketplace to allow private businesses and third-party service providers to enter the regulated industry. Meanwhile, Canadian federal politicians are undertaking a public consultation process ahead of a bill that would allow single-game sports betting across the country.
"Torstar is going to be an active participant and we want to be a player in this space," said Jim Warren, a former Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. executive who is working with Torstar on the gambling initiative. He’s also chief executive officer of Riseley Strategies Inc.
"We see this as an exciting opportunity to build a Made-in-Ontario solution for consumers who choose to game online, and we think it's an exciting opportunity to bring our readers a platform and participate and work with the government in the consultation process as they decide what they ultimately want to allow to happen in Ontario."
Warren said Torstar's online gambling portal is still under development, and those final details will be determined once the Ontario and federal governments pass their respective bills. He added there could be some synergies between the Toronto Star's sports section to provide content for the online portal's single-game sporting events, without providing specifics.
When asked whether opening a gambling business could dilute the trust earned by Torstar over the 128 years it has published news in Canada, Warren stated this venture could help fund future journalism efforts for The Star and other newspapers amid a period of transformation for media companies.
"We see this as an opportunity to find a new source of revenue to help fund quality journalism and new funding sources," Warren said.
"We're looking at multiple different ways of doing this but this is one way that we think that ensures the integrity of journalism and can provide resources for investigative journalism that the Star is known for."
This is the first major move from Torstar since the publisher was taken private in July following a courtroom battle between bidders vying to own the 128-year-old newspaper chain. Ultimately, an Ontario court approved the takeover deal led by NordStar Capital LP, a group led by former Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. President Paul Rivett, which paid $60 million to take Torstar private.